ATP Tennis Betting: Isner and Querrey lead strong home challenge in Cincy

The ATP World Tour stops off at Mason, Ohio in week 33 for the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Centre for another week of Masters 1000 action.

We wanted Rafa Nadal out so that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could progress to the final and we got half our wish when Rafa was stunned by Denis Shapolvalov, but Tsonga was poor in an early loss to Sam Querrey and it was Alexander Zverev, who made it back-to-back titles from the top half.

The bottom half became very straightforward for Roger Federer early on and Fed faced just one player from the top-32 en route to the final, with Robin Haase a most unlikely semi finalist, as was Shapovalov.

Grigor Dimitrov once again blew a golden opportunity by losing to Haase, while Gael Monfils wasted a set and 3-1 lead to lose to Roberto Bautista Agut for the right to play Federer.

Usually Cincy is regarded as one of the quicker hard court tournaments around, but a court pace of 35.1 last year puts it in the ‘medium’ category, a good nine points behind the 44.1 of Shanghai.

Played on a DecoTurf II outdoor hard court at the Lindner Family Tennis Centre in Mason, Ohio it’s usually hot and the balls (Penn ATP Extra Duty) skid through the court, suiting the big servers.

The extended weather forecast predicts a week of hot and humid conditions, with 30C in the shade the average and thunderstorms on Thursday.

This grand old tournament dates back to 1899 and in recent times it’s been dominated by Roger Federer, who won it seven times from 2005 to 2015, and last season’s surprise win by Marin Cilic was the first non-‘big four’ success since Andy Roddick in 2006.

Since the start of the Open era it’s never been won by anyone other than a top-16 seed and Cilic’s 40-1 win last year is almost certainly the biggest priced outright winner ever in Cincy history.

Despite the view that Cincy suits big servers only John Isner’s run to the final in 2013 supports that in terms of outright results and there aren’t haven’t been many tie break matches here lately either, but more on that in Monday’s daily preview.

Draw and form – top half

Again, Novak Djokovic (who’s never won here), Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and last year’s champ Marin Cilic are all missing through injury and Lucas Pouille, Marcos Baghdatis, Pablo Cuevas and Gilles Simon also withdrew.

Rafa Nadal heads up the top half of the draw and he’ll be happy to see Richard Gasquet as early opponent (14-1 to Nadal), but probably not Gilles Muller, having lost to the big leftie at Wimbledon.

He was also beaten by a leftie last week when Denis Shapovalov stunned him in Montreal, so if Muller is fit he could find conditions in Cincy ripe for upsetting the Spaniard again. Muller did withdraw from Montreal last week citing an inflammation to his left forearm, so his condition is under question.

Others of note in Nadal’s quarter include Nick Kyrgios, Kevin Anderson, Ivo Karlovic, David Goffin and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, so there’s plenty with weapons to test Rafa early at a tournament in which he’s only once made the final (when he won it in 2013).

We took Nadal on with Tsonga last week, but the Frenchman was again disappointing and looks to have lost his bottle a bit of late, so I’m not trusting him this week.

The Frenchman has a poor 2-5 record in Cincy in any case, while Kyrgios seems to be injured pretty much the whole time these days.

Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori are the two high seeds in the adjacent section to Nadal’s, but neither is in anything like their best form at the moment and can't be recommended again this week.

Karlovic has done nothing here since making the semis in 2008, while Goffin is still edging his way back from injury and looks not even close to mounting a title challenge this week, but a wild card punt would be Alexandr Dolgopolov at 200-1. He should have made the final here in 2015 when bottling it a bit against  Djokovic in the semis and if he beats Anderson in round one anything's possible with the Ukrainian. 

Pablo Carreno Busta is another just back from injury, but Sam Querrey and Fabio Fognini look the dark horses in this very open second quarter, with the American in good form right now and the Italian having made the semis of his last M1000 hard court event in Miami.

Neither is exactly reliable, but at 40-1 and 100-1 they have the quality required and are handily priced to shine in a weak-looking section of the draw.

If Haase and Shapovalov can make M1000 semi finals in the absence of many of the world’s elite then Querrey and Fognini certainly can and Querrey is one of the leading contenders on the hold/break stats on hard courts in 2017 with his 106.7 total.

Querrey has beaten Nishikori on four occasions, including their most recent clash, and he beat Thiem (and should have also beaten him on clay in Rome) in their last hard court encounter.

Fognini is a former quarter finalist in Cincy and with Thiem and Nishikori both looking well below their best form plenty of players will have their eyes on a deep run this week.

Draw and form – bottom half

The third quarter looks the place for trying to find some value, with Milos Raonic injured yet again and surely the heat and humidity will get to Alexander Zverev after two long weeks back-to-back in Washington DC and Montreal.

Andre Agassi did the Washington/Canada/Cincy treble back in 1995, so it is possible, but in these conditions I prefer taking a chance on former finalist John Isner to come through that section.

Isner was in fine form post-Wimbledon and after a round one loss in Canada, where he rarely goes well, he should be well-rested for this week and since making that 2013 final here he’s lost out to Andy Murray (in a final set tie break), Querrey and Raonic (in two tie breaks).

I doubt we’ll see much from Isner after the US Open and this is his time of year back at home in the USA in conditions he loves.

Another option is Roberto Bautista Agut, who’s got the beating of Raonic on their Melbourne clash that RBA should have led 2-0 in and with the Canadian struggling physically RBA looks the pick in that mini-section.

The fourth quarter is all about Federer, with the Swiss maestro holding a 43-8 record here and again his draw has been kind, with Jack Sock the seed in his mini-section and the out of form Grigor Dimitrov seeded to meet him in the last eight.

But the veteran Swiss looked to be badly struggling with some sort of back issue in the Montreal final on Sunday and in that condition he can be taken on here.

There’s a tough round one clash between Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro in that quarter too and Berdych was a late withdrawal from Montreal last week with a rib injury, so his condition is guesswork, while Delpo’s always is these days.

Both men have decent records in Cincy, but with their fitness under question they can’t be recommended really, and if Federer is unfit then Jack Sock will have a very nice draw.

Sock has a handy 3-1 career series lead over Dimitrov, but are conditions quite right for him here with the skidding ball probably not ideal for his game? He’s 1-4 here and looked injured in defeat to Ferrer in Montreal, so he’s overlooked too.

With Federer looking injured and Nadal holding a mediocre record here due to the ball skidding through rather than bouncing high both can be opposed and the two Americans Querrey, and Isner look the picks.

Berdych would probably be the choice if we’re simply taking on Federer in the fourth quarter, but that section really could be anyone’s if the Swiss isn’t up to it, so instead RBA is added to the list.

Best Bets
1 point win Querrey to win Cincinnati at 41.0
1 point win Isner to win at 34.0
1 point win Bautista Agut to win at 67.0